From Publishers Weekly
Set in 1899, Jones's fine second Viennese mystery (after 2009's The Empty Mirror
) opens with a falling fire curtain narrowly missing Gustav Mahler, the director of the Vienna Court Opera, but killing a soprano during a stage rehearsal. Lawyer and private inquirer Karl Werthen teams with criminologist Hanns Gross to look into this and subsequent accidents apparently aimed at Mahler. As the investigation descends into the damned politics of music, Mahler, a former Jew who must be careful to hide his contempt for fellow composer Richard Wagner, emerges as the nexus for an ever-widening pool of suspects. Complicating matters are big changes in Werthen's home life, in particular wife Berthe's pregnancy. Jones, the author of Hitler in Vienna, 1907–1913
and other nonfiction books about the city, smoothly blends a compelling period whodunit with bountiful cultural and social details. (Jan.)
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*Starred Review* A young woman hires a lawyer to find out who’s trying to kill the man she loves. At first the lawyer is skeptical, but soon he realizes that certain suspicious incidents have only one explanation: murder. But who’s the would-be culprit, and can he be stopped before he finally succeeds? Sounds like a pretty ordinary thriller, except that it’s set in 1899 Vienna, and the villain’s target is Gustav Mahler, the noted Austrian composer and conductor. Lawyer and investigator Karl Werthen, the hero of 2009’s The Empty Mirror, teams up with criminologist Hans Gross to find out whether there might be an evil plot afoot: with the recent deaths of Strauss and Brahms, it looks like someone might be systematically killing off Vienna’s musical geniuses. This is a rich, beautifully written historical mystery, with a unique setting and a compelling lead. The author’s use of real people—Mahler, Gross, and painter Gustav Klimt among them—gives the book the feel of actual history, and his careful re-creation of the Viennese setting transports us to the place and time. A first-class historical mystery that builds on the promise of its predecessor. --David Pitt